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BYU rugby: Looking back over a successful 2014 season

By Kelby Jones

For the Deseret News

Published: Thursday, May 8 2014 1:35 p.m. MDT

BYU celebrates their win over Cal in the Varsity Cup rugby championship at the Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on Saturday, May 3, 2014. BYU won 43-33.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

With the dust still settling from the Cougars resounding 43-33 victory over the California Golden Bears, BYU head coach David Smyth, his staff and captain Kyle Sumsion took time to review the 2014 season which culminated in BYU winning the Varsity Cup National Championship for the second year in a row over the University of California.

By running in seven tries against the vaunted California rugby program in front of more than 10,000 fans at Rio Tinto Stadium, the Cougars put an exclamation point on a season that had high expectations from the outset, according to Smyth.

“The season was a huge success,” Smyth said. “Our main priority was obviously to defend our championship and we did that. I couldn’t be more proud of the work our players put into this season in order to help us win the Varsity Cup again. We have a lot of respect for the California rugby program and are fortunate to have come out champions in this meeting between our two teams.”

BYU and California have met in the championship game eight out of the last nine years dating back to 2006. Despite the Cougars’ resounding victory this past weekend, the Golden Bears still hold an edge in title game contests against BYU, 5-3.

With the 2014 championship, the Cougars take home their fourth title in six seasons and their third straight.

The tally of four titles moves BYU from a tie for second with the Air Force Academy (1989, 1990, 2003) into second place alone but still a far cry from California’s 26 total championships.

An 18-1 season record in 2014 is no small accomplishment historically speaking. Only two BYU teams in the history of the program have gone undefeated in the regular season: 2009 (15-0) and 2012 (17-0). Not coincidentally, both teams went on to win their respective national championships.

Of note is the 2013 season where the Cougars tallied a 13-2 record with the two BYU losses coming to Men’s Division sides New York Athletic Club and Old Puget Sound RFC.

The lone 2014 loss came early in the Cougars’ season at the hands of Saint Mary’s College on the Gaels’ Pat Vincent Field in Moraga, California, by the score of 30-24 after BYU led 24-20 with 10 minutes to play.

This first game of BYU’s home-and-away series with St. Mary’s was aptly described by Gaels head coach Tim O’Brien to Rugbymag.com as a game that saw his team “catch them [BYU] right off the bus.”

The return leg of the series saw the Cougars banish the loss from mind with a confident 35-21 victory in March.

“The loss to St. Mary’s in February was a definite wake-up call for us,” Sumsion said. “We needed to know that nothing was going to be handed to us. No disrespect from St. Mary’s, but that loss made us work harder so we could set the record straight as to who the better team was when they came to Provo.”

Since the St. Mary’s loss, the Cougars rattled off 12 straight victories with highlighted wins over 2013 Elite Cup Champs San Francisco Golden Gate in the Champions Challenge, the University of Utah in the return of the Wasatch Cup rivalry match and Arizona State University in the inaugural Rugby Bowl.

SFGG has gone on to prove their mettle as a top Men’s Division club by earning a spot in the inaugural Pacific Rugby Premiership final against the Glendale Raptors this coming week, while a resurgent rival Utah narrowly lost to Central Washington University, 26-24, in the Varsity Cup quarterfinals.

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